Forces Against Democratic Decision Making

The state’s flagship university was faced with a critical decision: should it require the COVID-19 vaccine for future registrations? The President and her cabinet had debated the issue for several weeks. The medical representatives on the cabinet were strong advocates for a vaccine requirement. Those whose personal beliefs were based upon free will felt that a vaccine requirement should not be required, but that the importance of the vaccine should be included within the university’s mandatory wellness training which was part of the freshman semester.

Without a consensus from the cabinet, the president decided to put the question to a vote of the student body. This turned out to be a living example of a democratic practice – good and bad. There were strong advocates in the student body on both sides of the issue. The anti-vaccine group received funding from the anti-vax political bodies that saw this as an opportunity to go against the “liberal bias” they saw on the campus.

The result of the voting was overwhelming in favor of requiring the vaccine – 83% to 17%. As the university was preparing its notices to students, the president got a call from the head of the judiciary committee in the state senate. He was strongly opposed to requiring the vaccine. He had asked the state’s attorney general to file a lawsuit against the university. He strongly hinted that the education communities in both chambers would penalize the university with drastic budget cuts.

The president was concerned by the threats, and felt that she had no choice but to go against the student body vote. The impact was immediate. Students protested daily against the president. The faculty senate called for a vote of no confidence. The rejection of the vote of the students became a feature story in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Deposits for incoming freshman declined by 27% over typical years. But the most visible impact was that three of the high level basketball recruits had withdrawn their commitments.

What are the limits of democratic decision making when one person in a powerful position can forestall or vacate the will of the people? Can decisions ever be made democratically when hidden forces and money can have undue influence on the outcome of a decision? Who has the courage to say no to those who try to subvert the will of the people? These are serious questions that need discussed to maintain the ideals of our democracy.

Just imagine the untold stories that are occurring everyday where democratic principles are being subverted by powerful persons? Just imagine what it might take to protect our democracies at all levels from undue influences of those in power? Just imagine the remedies that might be necessary to restore true democratic decision making?

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“America will not be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” – Abraham Lincoln

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